What does the long-term contract extension for Steelers receiver Antonio Brown mean for the future of the Steelers’ other starting receiver, Mike Wallace?
It may mean Wallace and the Steelers have no future together.
After Brown signed his deal, Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that there won’t be a new deal for Wallace. In other words, the Steelers are telling Wallace that his options are to sign his one-year tender and play this season for $2.7 million, or not to play at all.
If Wallace does sign that one-year tender, he’d become an unrestricted free agent a year from now. At that point, the Steelers could use the franchise tag to keep him, but Bouchette writes that there’s “no way” the Steelers will franchise Wallace. In other words, the Steelers have pretty much resigned themselves to getting one more year out of Wallace, and then letting him move on.
But will they even get another year out of Wallace? Not necessarily, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who writes that the Steelers could trade Wallace in training camp.
That one is harder to picture. First of all, a trade would only happen if there’s a team out there willing both to meet Wallace’s contract demands and to give up compensation that the the Steelers are willing to accept. But if Wallace is really looking for Larry Fitzgerald money, as has been reported, there’s probably not a team out there willing to meet his contract demands. And it’s not clear whether any team is willing to give up the kind of compensation the Steelers would accept: We know no team is going to give up a first-round pick for Wallace because any team could have had him for a first-round pick at any time during the offseason, and no team signed him to an offer sheet. A team might tempt the Steelers with an offer of a second-round pick, but the Steelers could just decide they’d rather have one more year of Wallace’s services, especially considering that the Steelers would get a compensatory pick if Wallace leaves in free agency next year.
In other words, there aren’t many options for Wallace right now. His best bet seems to be signing the tender, having another strong season, and hoping unrestricted free agency goes better for him next year than restricted free agency went for him this year.